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Issue 95 Alzheimer’s Insights by Curation Health 05 July 2016
Innovative research and fresh thinking feature large in a wide range of inspiring stories this week, with news items on subjects ranging from marijuana to retinal scanning, speech recognition software to CT scanning – and that’s not scanning as a diagnostic but as a treatment tool. And for anyone still worrying over that old story about “catching” dementia from blood transfusions: the Karolinska Institute assures us that we can stop worrying.
Most read stories this week
Pat Summitt Leaves A Key Alzheimer's Legacy
Can CT Scans Alleviate Symptoms Of Alzheimer's Disease?
Cannabis compounds could be used to treat Alzheimer's, research suggests
Dementia cannot be caught through blood transfusions, say scientists
End-Of-Life Care Better For Patients With Cancer, Dementia: Study Finds
Medical Information
Marijuana may protect against Alzheimer’s
Conventional thinking on the risks and benefits of marijuana has split rather simplistically between those who feel that the famous weed is a passport to peace and love, and those who see it as a gateway to much darker places. All the while, its medicinal uses have seen the balance of opinion shift in favour of its wider use, as summarised a few days ago on Live Trading News. And now there is research from the Salk Institute in San Diego, suggesting it may have a role in protecting against Alzheimer’s. Given that the generation currently at the greatest risk of the disease are the same Baby Boomers who reckon they “discovered” the drug back in the 1960s, it’s easy to understand how the Salk news has gone down well.

While earlier research has shown that the cannabinoids in marijuana can have a neuroprotective effect, the Salk work is the first to achieve success in reducing the harmful levels of amyloid protein while also eliminating the inflammation associated with the build-up of that protein. It’s early days on research which so far has tested their theory only on engineered cells in vitro, and more detailed work on human subjects in formal clinical trials must proceed before all those Boomers can come down off their cloud.
CT radiation powers a dramatic renewal
Interesting out-of-the-box thinking, here: an article on asks if radiation from CT scans might alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, before developing into a longer, thoughtful piece going back over half a century and reflecting on early arguments arising over the safety of atomic energy. In the earlier part of the last century, the medical profession might not have been as amazed by the story that leads this feature, concerning an Alzheimer’s patient who had declined almost to the point of death, before making a remarkable recovery following five CT scans in as many months.

The writer in Forbes describes how controlled radiation in very small doses would have been used against a range of afflictions including arthritis, asthma, pneumonia, and severe infections. Since the dawning of the atomic age, the use of this technology has been pared back to considerably and is now generally associated almost exclusively with cancer treatment. The writer reviews some of the reasons for this and concludes with a plea for further research into the potential benefits of radiation therapy.
Cerebrovascular disease linked to Alzheimer’s
Research from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, published in The Lancet Neurology journal last month and summarised here on the MedicalXpress website, suggests we have more to learn about the pathology of blood vessels in the brain. Independently of whatever may be happening in the heart, with problems of high blood pressure and blood vessel damage raising the risks of vascular dementia, it appears that diseased or damaged blood vessels in the brain may be linked to higher risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease itself.
Dementia cannot be transmitted in blood
After a rather speculative report last year concerning a possible link between Alzheimer’s disease and infected blood, exhaustive research out of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has now established that there is no risk of transference. It is not possible to “catch” dementia from a blood transfusion. The new research, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and reported widely, as here on The Telegraph website, went far beyond the small handful of subjects involved in last year’s story, involving over 2 million blood recipients and almost as many donors, all monitored over a 40-year period. No statistically significant difference was noted in the rates of neurological disease between those whose transfusions had come from people with dementia, as against those who were dementia-free.

Latest Alzheimer's Medical Info
Depression, Stress & Coping
Summitt never merely coped: she climbed higher
While coping is always better than not coping, there is a sense of stoic endurance about the word that rather diminishes the achievements of someone like basketball coach Pat Summit, who died last week of early onset Alzheimer’s. Showing the fighting spirit that permeated her career as one of America’s top college coaches, she took on her diagnosis five years ago and resolved to stay as focused in her work as she possibly could, to retain her quality of life so far as was possible, and on her terms. The disease might take her, but not defeat her; merely “coping” would not be enough. As this profile piece on the Forbes website makes clear, the combination of her life achievements and her attitude following her diagnosis could well reshape the American public’s attitude to dementia.

Depression, Stress & Coping with Alzheimer's
Medical Devices
NeuroVision raises $10M for retinal imaging
One diagnostic technology that is gathering pace and now attracting serious money was the subject of a piece on the FierceBiotech website: American diagnostics technology company NeuroVision has raised a Series B funding tranche of $10M to continue with the clinical trials already underway in the USA and Australia. As an emerging specialist in the early detection of Alzheimer’s, NeuroVision is promoting a technology that can spot the accumulation of amyloid-beta protein in the retina of the eye, which has been shown to reflect what is going on in the brain, with the evidence visible even while a person remains non-symptomatic.
Assistive technologies apply to diagnostics AND care
That innovation in dementia research is advancing across a wide front was clear in a story at the end of last month from the University of Toronto, in Canada, where the talented young team behind Winterlight Labs has developed software that combines natural language processing and machine learning technology to detect the early signs of cognitive impairment in fragments of speech. Innovations such as this and the retinal scanning technology being developed by NeuroVision (story above) show that solutions to the challenges of diagnosis and dementia care are becoming more bespoke to the needs of people facing the challenges of dementia, while attracting both serious money and top talent to this rapidly growing area of research.

Another example of this evolution of devices specifically for the dementia market is reflected in the recent announcement from Manchester Metropolitan University, described on the ScienceDaily website, of a new project to research the potential in mobile and wearable technologies that can support independent living and tackle social isolation. And of course the commercial landscape for an evolving market for such products, devices and services is growing rapidly too, with the UK website Unforgettable leading the way in sourcing and promoting solutions that are best-in-class for people no longer content with just making do and getting by.

Medical Devices & Alzheimer's
Drugs & Clinical Trials
In the face of the challenges, collaboration is key
A pair of significant collaborative ventures highlight the growing trend in the world of Big Pharma to team up to address the challenges of creating and then marketing the treatments that will have the greatest chance of success. An article on EPM Magazine (“Connecting Pharma”) describes how Probiodrug, a biopharma that is developing therapeutic applications for the Alzheimer’s community, is teaming up with Crossbeta Biosciences, a Dutch biotech whose technologies will assist Probiodrug in getting its biomarkers through clinical trials.

And a slightly different alliance with the same objective – the facilitation of clinical trials – is the nub of a story on the FierceBiotech website. Global IT company Cognizant will provide its SmartTrials clinical trial data management system to Big Pharma Biogen to ensure that the biotech giant’s clinical trials proceed as smoothly as possible.
Tiny doses of HIV drug might work for Alzheimer’s
Although the scientific detail in this story on the News Medical website gets eye-wateringly technical, the thrust of it is clear enough and a cause for hopeful optimism. A research team involving scientists from the American National Institute of Standards of Technology and Case Western Reserve University have found a way of making a drug designed as anti-HIV treatment work as a treatment for Alzheimer’s – subject of course to the usual caveats that apply to early stage research generally. The essence of their work lies in working out how their drug binds to an enzyme in the brain in such a way as ramps up the effect of clearing cholesterol, and possibly beta amyloid proteins as well – both activities leading to improvements in memory.

Drugs & Clinical Trials
Care Advice
Elder care tax credits show how society is changing
An article on the Huffington Post website reflects how the demographics of American society are changing, what the cost implications are for the caregivers – especially those working in the home environment – and how current trends are set to play out over the coming decades. There is at least one stark statistic here: “the ratio of potential family caregivers to those over 80 will steeply decline from 7:1 today to 4:1 by 2030” which poses questions as to how fewer caregivers will afford the demands of caring for more people. One answer is suggested in a “Credit for Caring” bill now before Congress, which would establish tax credits for long-term family caregivers.
No longer recognising you? Persevere…
Leading dementia blogger Marie Marley writes a good piece on the Huffington Post website about that painful moment for so many caregivers when the person they are visiting or caring for appears not to recognise them. Among the half-dozen sensitively crafted considerations she asks readers to bear in mind, the root of it all is the emotional reality of the moment, entirely independently of whatever words can be found by either person to describe it. Not being recognised is no less painful for understanding that it cannot be taken as a personal slight. The shift of mindset from what life in the moment means for the forgetful person, and away from its impact on the caregiver, often serves to recalibrate the experience for both parties. The person being cared for can enjoy the moment and appreciate the attention quite independently of their recognising the caregiver or not recognising them. Go with the flow…

Alzheimer's Care Advice
And Finally…
To the list of well-known names associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s, we can add that of Lady Helen Stewart, wife to one of the UK’s most distinguished motor racing champions. A short interview with Sir Jackie on BBC radio provides the background to what he describes as the biggest challenge he has ever faced, and the objectives of the charity he has established. A longer story in The Telegraph has more information on the charity and its backers.

Race Against Dementia” might be seen by some as replicating the focus and the work of other organisations, but there can be no question that its being ignited by a Formula One racing ace will inject urgency and pace into its early efforts, and we wish it, and Sir Jackie, all the best of British.
More Alzheimer’s Disease Feeds on CurationHealth
Depression, Stress & Coping with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s Care Advice
Alzheimer’s Lifestyle Issues
Latest Alzheimer’s Medical Info
Drugs & Clinical Trials
Medical Devices & Alzheimer’s
Tweets of the week twitter logo
Ian Kremer (@LEAD_Coalition)
#Alzheimers/#dementia warning signs, value of detection & diagnosis. @alzdelval @AlzCentral @judith_graham @Jon4033
Medscape Pharmacists (@MedscapePharm)
New study says #Marijuana may prevent #Alzheimers. A review of all its effects on brain:
Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic)
Here are the stages of #Alzheimers, from prodromal [earliest] to severe:
MindOLab (@Sonu_Bhaskar)
Moving story! Grandma forgot my name: help for children close to someone with #dementia - The Age #Alzheimers…
If I Need Help (@QRCodeiD1)
Custom Wearable iDs link to live profiles #Autism #Alzheimers #mentalillness #SpecialNeeds
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About Alzheimer’s Insights
Alzheimer’s Insights is an online newsletter created for consumers -- primarily patients and carers -- who live with the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. Based upon intelligent search algorithms that scour the Internet for the most read, relevant and useful stories from around the world, it is curated and published each Tuesday by a team of health and publishing experts.
Tam McDonald  
Tam McDonald Senior Curator
Tam is a communications professional with three decades of experience in health, hospitality, and financial services publishing. His interest in the human brain goes back to his studies in philosophy at university. His commitment to securing the best information about health matters goes back to his decade as a carer. In addition to his work with Alzheimer’s, Tam is engaged in online publishing projects relating to health innovation and investment, human and artificial intelligence, and diabetes.
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Looking ahead…
Issue 96 12 July 2016
With all the information that is available online these days, some people still want to get their hands on a good book when it comes to getting to grips with a new subject in a well-rounded, sensible way. We look at some of the best books available: essential reading particularly for that moment right after a diagnosis.
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